By JESSICA HARPER
WASHINGTON (January 21, 2011) Despite passage of the Patients' Rights Repeal Act Wednesday, the Republican-backed bill overturning last year's health care reforms has little chance of success in the Democrat-led Senate.
Maryland's delegation voted along party lines with Democratic Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger III, John Sarbanes, Donna Edwards, Steny Hoyer, Elijah Cummings, and Chris Van Hollen all against the repeal. Republican Reps. Andy Harris and Roscoe Bartlett backed the repeal measure.
The bill, which passed the House 245-189, was nicknamed "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," by House GOP leaders. House opponents contended that President Obama's Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act, HR 3590, would result in the loss of 650,000 jobs, was akin to socialism and would wrest control of health care from the private sector.
The act, passed last March, was designed to make health care more affordable so that all citizens can be covered, but many of its controversial details, such as mandatory plans by 2014, have drawn battle lines between supporters and opponents.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who controls the Senate floor schedule, has said he will not bring up repeal, according to published reports.
Harris, a freshman congressman and anesthesiologist, who ran on an anti-"Obamacare" platform, remains optimistic about the bill's chances in the Senate and beyond.
"I'm not discounting that the repeal will go through," he said. "The president said we weren't going to extend tax cuts, yet at the end of December, they were extended because that's what the people wanted. I think the American people want this bill repealed."
Sarbanes, D-Towson, lamented the law's passage Thursday, saying it would hurt children and seniors, among others.
"Some of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act benefit younger people, allowing them to stay on their parents' policies up to age 26," he said, calling children "the most vulnerable" among us. "That would be lost with repeal."
Sarbanes said seniors also would feel an economic pinch if the repeal holds up.
"Reform covers preventative services and screening. Otherwise, seniors would have to (pay) out-of-pocket," he said. "We want to make it easier for them. We want to close the Medicare donut hole and provide 50 percent discounts."
The "donut hole" refers to a gap in drug coverage. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, seniors are set to receive a 50 percent discount beginning this year on prescription drugs while still in the hole. Repeal, however, would erase this benefit.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., also weighed in, pressing opponents of reform on what they want changed.
"To those who voted for repeal of health care reform, I ask what do they want to repeal?" she said in statement. "Guaranteeing a child not be denied health care because of asthma or juvenile diabetes? Guaranteeing coverage for victims of domestic violence?"
Mikulski vowed to continue fighting for health care reform.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., also condemned the vote, saying the new House leadership is "putting the health and the lives of our seniors and middle-class Americans in jeopardy with their irresponsible pursuit of repealing health care reform...
"At a time when the American public clearly wants its leaders to focus our attention on helping to create jobs and grow our economy, the new House majority chose to begin the new Congress with a vote to turn back the clock on popular health care benefits," he said.
Edwards, D-Fort Washington, blasted the repeal on the House floor, referring to Wednesday, as "a sad day in the People's House."
"Were it to become law, The Patients' Rights Repeal Act would mean loss of health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of people living in Maryland's 4th Congressional District and millions more across the country," she said.
Edwards credits the new health care law with stories she hears daily from constituents who say they have benefited from its passage. These constituents range, Edwards said, from people with pre-existing conditions to senior citizens receiving assistance to afford their prescription drugs.
"These people and many more cannot financially or physically return to a system dominated by insurance companies," she said. "Enough of the repeal antics and theater."